Alappuzha: A year after the historical appointment of Dalit priests in Travacore Devaswom Board (TDB), the Devaswom Recruitment Board set up by the government chooses to appoint more priests from SC/ST and backward communities, adding muscle to the spirit of the Paliyam Proclamation held on October 6, 1985.
As the government reiterates that it would not discriminate priests in the name of caste or denomination, the increasing number of appointments of non-Brahmins to Devaswom boards could attract more youngsters from backward and SC/ST communities to the priesthoods in the near future and it will take fight against discrimination to new heights.
"So it's proclaimed that those who earned Brah-manyam (Brahminhood) irrespective of castes are deserved to participate in the temple affairs including pujas. All Hindus can embrace 'Shodasa Samskara' and one can be trained for priestly duties," said the proclamation made at Chennamangalam Palace in the presence of Azhvanchery Thampra-kkal, considered an authority on priestly matters, and representatives of seven families which had a say over the Brahmin community in the state.
The number of non-Brahmin candidates who qualified in the written examinations and interviews is expanding. The Cochin Devaswom Board (CDB) is now appointing 54 non-Brahmin priests including seven from SC/ST communities. Out of 70 priests to be appointed, 54 people belonged to the backward castes. Of 54 backward community priests, 31 are from the merit list. Only 16 people from the forward castes got selected in the list. Earlier in last year, 36 non-Brahmins, including six Dalits, were appointed to the TDB.
According to Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran, the Kerala government has created history again by appointing non-Brahmin priests including from SC/ST community to the Cochin Devaswom Board.
"The appointment of Dalit priests at least in temples controlled by the Devaswom Boards three decades after the Proclamation meets its real objective," says V. R. Joshi, former director, Backward Classes Develo-pment Corporation. "This could strengthen the marginalised in society to fight for rights." Some hidden forces have always been working against the implementing of Paliyam proclamation, he said, adding the appointment of non-Brahmin priests to major temples like Sabarimala and Guruvayur is still a contentious issue.
Mr Joshi said the development should be extended to the education institutions controlled by Devaswom Boards as well. "Education institutions run by the Devaswom Boards are no longer religious institutions,” he said....